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12/27/10 10:00 AM EST

2010: A magical year in Rangers history

ARLINGTON -- The Washington Senators lost 96 games in 1968 before Ted Williams took over as manager and led them to a dramatic 20-game improvement the following season.

The Senators still finished fourth, but Williams was Manager of the Year -- just as Billy Martin was in '74 when the Rangers went 84-76 in finishing second after losing 104 games the year before. The Rangers experienced a similar turnaround when they went from 62-99 in '85 to 87-75 under Bobby Valentine in '86. There was also '96, when Johnny Oates led the Rangers to the first of three division titles in four years.

But there is no doubt that 2010 will live forever in the hearts and minds of Rangers fans. The Rangers not only won their first division title in 11 years, but, over three terrific weeks, defeated the Rays in the American League Division Series and the Yankees in the AL Championship Series to advance to the World Series for the first time in club history.

There were a variety of intriguing and compelling story lines that followed the Rangers throughout '10, but they all, in one way or another, were just a part of the overall amazing journey that carried the club all the way to the Fall Classic. It was a season unlike any other in Rangers history, even if they did lose the World Series in five games to the Giants.

Year in Review
Looking back at 2010
MLB Year in Review
Game prospering
Final standings
Statistical leaders

Here are the biggest storylines that followed the Rangers through '10:

5. The Rangers struggle through a difficult Spring Training.

There was little that transpired during Spring Training that suggested the Rangers were about to embark on a magical season. The club showed up for camp, only to be told that utility infielder Khalil Greene would not be reporting. Then, there was manager Ron Washington having to admit he tested positive for cocaine the previous summer, injuries to key players like Ian Kinsler, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and a 10-19 record in exhibition games. It was not a good spring, but the Rangers got past it.

4. Setup relievers lead resurgence of Rangers pitching

Neftali Feliz and C.J. Wilson finished the '09 season as setup relievers. One month into the '10 season, they were the top two pitchers on the staff. Wilson had made a successful transition into a starting role and Feliz had taken over as the closer. Those two, plus starter Colby Lewis and relievers Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver, would help form the core of a pitching staff that finished with a 3.93 ERA -- fourth best in the American League and the Rangers' lowest since 1990.

3. Rangers acquire Cliff Lee in a six-player trade

On July 9, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels went to the office expecting to hear that the Yankees were about to acquire pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners. But as the morning progressed, Daniels heard that deal was falling apart. Before the Rangers took the field that night to face the Orioles, Daniels had swapped first baseman Justin Smoak and three Minor Leaguers with the Mariners for Lee and reliever Mark Lowe. The Rangers were in first place at the time, but acquiring Lee was the trade that gave them the confidence to go deep in the playoffs. Lee beat the Rays twice, including a complete-game performance in Game 5 of the ALDS, and the Yankees once in the playoffs.

2. New ownership group takes over by winning auction

Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg led a powerhouse group of investors that bought the Rangers from former owner Tom Hicks. The deal was announced on Jan. 23, but never approved by Hicks' lenders in New York. Instead, the whole mess ended up in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the franchise was eventually put up for auction. That took place on Aug. 4, with the Greenberg group emerging victorious over the team of Mark Cuban and Jim Crane. Eight days later, the group was officially approved by Major League Baseball.

1. Josh Hamilton finishes MVP season by leading Rangers to World Series

The Rangers finally reached the Promised Land on Oct. 22 behind the pitching of Colby Lewis, as they defeated the Yankees, 6-1, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to win Game 6 of the ALCS and advance to the World Series for the first time ever. Josh Hamilton hit four home runs to win MVP honors for the series.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.